Better Recycling: Using Labor Day as Winter Prep!

household recycling how to

Sometimes recycling is easy. Sometimes it takes a lot of work to save the planet and make sure that future generations don’t grow up in landfills. Specifically, all of the work that comes with sorting paper and plastic–and then having to find good homes for all of that before recycling day rolls around. That can be twice a week, but you really become aware of your ecological footprint when you’re trying to find space for all of the garbage that your family creates.  [photo via wikimedia]

And it becomes even more troublesome when you’re heading out in the colder months with all of  your assorted recyclables. That’s why we like to use the Labor Day weekend as a dry run for getting our recycling program back into shape. It falls apart during summer, we admit, since there’s a lot a more blatant consumerism going on in our back yard. It’s also no great sacrifice to slip on some sandals and take out some garbage recycling late in the evening.

In a few months, though, we’ll be bundling up for that–so let’s use our Labor Day barbecue as a chance to star getting organized again. Storage is always the big issue, of course. We’ve bought cheap tall kitchen trash bags for immediate separation of paper and plastic. Those can then be taken outside every few days to the larger bins. We also added a bin in the cabinet beneath the sink, which is a great space for cans and bottles. The biggest struggle in all of this is pleading with the kids to compress any kind of plastic bottle that can be squeezed down by strong young hands. That saves space. Oh, and wash those bottles out, kids. That spares us ants.

This is also a good time to head down to City Hall and look into what they can supply in recycling bins. We had the complete bottom of one of ours basically disintegrate over the summer. Now’s the time to check on the status of your own bins. You don’t want any surprises in unpleasant weather.

We’re not crazy about adding to the workload, but we’ve also lessened our actual garbage by becoming more aware of what we can recyle. Tin foil that retains its shape after being crushed is totally recyclable. So are most aerosol cans. Look for the recycling symbol, and also make sure the cans are empty and have the plastic push button removed.

The big secret to paper storage is to keep your piles of paper stacked up neatly. We have a corner of the kitchen where we’ve set up a former clothes hamper. That makes a big difference–even if it is a challenge to crush an empty milk carton flat. That kind of thing can be kept at the top of the stack. The piled paper is a lot easier to move on outside, and then on to the street.

Of course, a Labor Day barbecue is a lot more labor-intensive for recycling–but that’s why we’re checking our bins and clearing out our kitchen stations now. It’s all part of getting set for a very green (and conscientious) winter.